Thanksgiving Sports Edition

Most of us can find something to be thankful for this time of year.  I enjoy watching sports and when I woke up this morning I started to think what if some of the more talked about sports figures in the nation needed some help in realizing what they should be thankful for.  So just in case they wonder, here it goes: 

NBA Edition: 

Chris Bosh should be thankful that his contract in Toronto expired at just the right time.  And that NBA GMs bought the hype that he was an important free agent pick up along the lines of James and Stoudemire.  Before his exposure as a soft pancake like small forward posing as a shooting guard, before Pat Riley found out that Bosh wanted to ‘chill’, he was able to ink the contract of a lifetime and live in the tax free state of Florida.   That is definitely an improvement from merely being Shaq’s Rupaul.

Joe Johnson should be thankful too that the Atlanta Hawks went old school Yankees and bid against themselves in giving him a max contract.  At least he knows how to act with it. 

Carlos Boozer is thankful that the Bulls are not pushing too hard to figure out how he really got hurt. 

The Washington Wizards: For John Wall.  How many rookies can do the Dougie for 20 minutes during player introduction AND put up a triple-double on the same night?

Donald Sterling for leasing  Blake Griffin for a few years:  Blake’s Shawn Kemp like athletically styled freaky destroy the rim dunks will definitely sell a few more season tickets for the Clippers.  Sterling can buy more real estate in Beverly Hills where he can discriminate against African-American would be tenants before Blake leaves the team that serves as the unofficial bitches of the Lakers.  Maybe he will even become a Laker! 

The City of Cleveland: Lebron is fool’s gold.  Now that he has taken his talents to South Beach, I guess the South and the Beach have affected his stamina as he’s already gone on record as wanting less minutes.  Cleveland stood in the spotlight and had the hope and aspirations of Chicago Cub fans in June for several years.  And you had James to thank for that.  He got his taste of free agency.  James is a physical beast with almost unlimited talent.  But his head ain’t right.  It may or may not ever get right.  What you see now is a player more interested in being famous for famous sake, not a winner who will do whatever it takes like a Jim Brown, or Kobe Bryant.  It may take a while, but if Dan Gilbert has the same commitment to the team as he did when James were there, Byron Scott will make sure they play smart and hard every night. 

Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin dunks during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons, Friday, Nov. 12, 2010, in Los Angeles.

NFL Edition: 

Vince Young: Thankful that Bud Adams loves him like Arthur Blank used to love Michael Vick.  And that he is willing to put up with his childlike and unprofessional behavior.  I guess if he doesn’t kill any animals or commit any other felonies he may keep that love and even get Jeff Fisher fired.  Adams drinks the Young Kool-Aid like ESPN talking heads drink Favre’s. He’s probably going to get Fisher run like Favre did Chili.  From what I hear, Young is as committed to putting in work during the week like Favre is in the pre-season too.  What similarities. 

Speaking of Favre and Kool-Aid; Favre should be thankful that Roger Goodell is a hypocrite and will not punish him for sexually harassing a former Jets employee including sending her text photos of his junk.  Roger is great at putting the Pac Man Jones’ of the world in check in laying down the law.  But the Old Gunslinger puts tape on his mouth.  Shhhhh!  Listen to that?  What’s that sound?  That’s the sound of silence from the NFL offices in New York.  The NFL cares about the NFL brand, not the players, not integrity.  As long as Favre is starting, you won’t hear anything else regarding Sterger-gate.  David Stern’s frozen envelope from 1985 is screaming conspiracy here! 

Sterger didn’t help her own cred by trying to get paid from it.  Getting paid is nothing I’m against.  But she stalled the NFL offices while trying to broker a hush deal.  That’s not on Goodell however.  He has the information and the self proclaimed sheriff of the shield is showing himself to be nothing more than politician.  

Richard Seymour: That his name is not James Harrison.  He’s going to get that $25 grand out of his chump change purse like Sweet Daddy from Good Times and still get to play on Sunday.  

And finally the City of Philadelphia:  That Jeffery Laurie and Andy Reed didn’t listen to YOU when you didn’t want to allow Michael Vick a second chance.  The listened to McNabb instead and now they have an MVP candidate, a player who can potentially take them to another Super Bowl.  

**Side Notes

The New York Yankees/Derek Jeter situation is getting ugly.  I think a couple things needs to happen.  First, management, especially Hank Steinbrenner need to stop putting their Captain on blast by giving him the, “If you don’t like my offer go get a better one somewhere else,” statement in the press.  That’s just disrespectful and unnecessary.  Jeter for his part needs to either, a) tell his agent to stop comparing him to Babe Ruth at 36, and b) perhaps take a more active role in his own final contract.  He believes he should get paid for ‘services rendered’ and the club believes he should get paid for ‘services currently performed.’  Conventional wisdom says it’s somewhere in between.  Jeter should retire in pinstripes.  And in this negotiation both parties should come away satisfied though not completely happy.  Jeter should get his respect, and the Yanks should not overpay by leaps and bounds if they choose not to this time.  I suppose Jeter wonders why they want to get fiscally conservative all of a sudden.  But The Boss is dead.  Hank is not Vito Corleone or even Michael.  He’s more or less Sonny.

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Embracing Pride (Part 2) When Enemies Become Friends

Two sayings come to mind for this post.   “Always remember to keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”  And, “We have no permanent friends and no permanent enemies, only permanent interest.”  The first I heard in a scene from the classic film, “The Godfather.”  The other I heard from talk show host and political activist Tavis Smiley though he may have not originated it.  These are some of the wisest statements ever and yet many of us sleep on its genius.  I definitely have not fully subscribed in the past because when I think of enemies I think of the hurt they have caused me – the betrayal, the lies, etc.  My first instinct when coming across the people who I know have hurt me intentionally – (though sometimes they even smile in my face) is to resist them at all cost.  If I see he/she coming one way, I usually go the other.  I avoided conversation and any type of small talk or contact with the individuals who I knew not to have my best interest at heart.

However, I am learning now that total isolation from our enemies can do more harm than good in the long run.  My classroom has been within some of my own business dealings.  One of my business ventures requires a lot of networking and since I am new to this particular business that means double for me.  It’s been often said that it’s not about what you know – it’s who you know.  Well that’s not completely true.  In reality it’s who knows you!  I can know the CEO of a company but in order for me to benefit from his/her favor or influence depends on if he/she knows who I am when my name is mentioned.  Fortunately, I have managed to gain quite a few notable contacts within this field that now know and respect my name.  And slowly I am building up credentials that will give me business for several years to come should everything continue on course.  But as in any venture I also have my share of detractors and haters.  (Thank you Rich House for reminding me to embrace my haters!)  One such hater is actually a person I have known for over 10 years.  He has been in the field for over 20 years and I looked to him for guidance, advice and connections.  Admittedly this person started off helping me quite a bit.  But then I noticed a turn in his attitude after he began to notice that I started to take off and create a network for myself which increased my opportunities within the field.  He noticed me at different places and wondered aloud to me, “How did you get turned on to this?  Who did you speak with?  That person didn’t call me.  How much business did you acquire? Etc.”  I could tell in his tone that he was envious at my progress – and I have very strong evidence that he made efforts to take some business away from me that I obtained through a mutual  contact.  From the beginning these revelations hurt quite a bit.  And I felt that a person of his stature should be happy for me – especially because he knew of my career situation and the fact that I was struggling to make ends meet.  Initially I though to avoid this person – or even give him a piece of my mind.  Instead, I kept my approach professional and gave him the appearance of respect.  In the meantime when he ask I don’t give him accurate accounts of my progress – and since he still has the power to give me business occasionally, I give him the impression of gratefulness on my behalf.  For every time I get even an ounce of business from him, I have the opportunity to profit initially and show my skills and abilities to other potential clients.  Its not as if I am not thankful in reality.  It’s that I understand the games being played when ego and greed are involved.  Often to get what we want we may have to stroke or placate someone’s ego a bit for desired results. 

This lesson came up again as I was reading, “An Ordinary Man,” written by Paul Rusesabagina who was the manager of the Hotel des Mille Collines in Rwanda as portrayed by Don Cheadle in the movie, Hotel Rwanda.”  He spoke of doing business with many of the people he did not consider to be friends – some of whom were out to kill him and the over 1200 refugees he protected in the hotel during the genocide in 1994.  General Augustin Bizimungu was a major player in the vicious murders of 800,000 Rwandans.  He was charged with war crimes and is in a Tanzanian prison.  In the midst of the unrest and extreme violence, Paul maintained a friendship with him that was started mostly by Paul’s services rendered to the general and people of power like him at the hotel.  But it was with a purpose.  Paul explains it himself in his book, “An Ordinary Man.”

I have been criticized for my friendship with him during the genocide, but I have never apologized for it.  “How could you have stayed close to such a vile man?”  I am asked, and my answer is this: I do not excuse whatever he may have done to promote the genocide, but I never heard him agree with any of the bloodshed when he was in my presence.  I had to stay close to him because he could help me save lives.  I would have stayed close to anyone who could help me do that. 

He then went further to illustrate yet another important point.  In describing the general in more depth:

… There is a saying in Rwanda: “Every man has a secret corner in his mind that nobody will ever know.”  And I do not think I know enough about Bizimungu’s secret corner to judge him.  He may have done terrible things in Rwanda before and during the genocide, but I know that he stepped in for me at crucial moments to save lives of innocent people when it was of no conceivable benifit to him.  If I had ended that friendship, I do not think I would be here to write these words today.  There are at least 1,268 people who survived the killing partly because of the instructions of Bizimungu. In my book that counts for something.  (P. 162-163)

 

While I am disapointed in this particular person, I am not going to write off his value and humanity.  He is still a child of God in my eyes and each day he lives, like myself he has opportunity for regeneration and growth. If he wants to hurt me for apparently no reason, then there is something inside himself that is lacking.  But I digress.  The main point is that there is no shame to the one to doing business with people who think less of your value.  It is in no way selling out as long inward dignity is preserved.  As the bible says, in life we have to be as wise as serpents and yet gentle as doves.  Many black men for instance had to subject their egos at the door of humility when operating within Jim Crow segregation.  They were called boy, and at other times much worse.  While some men felt inferior I’m sure, still many more understood other people’s ignorance could not define them.  And having the ability to earn a living for family is honorable above all.  As I like to say, this is an inward issue.  Its one thing to cower from within and an even worse practice to betray one’s principles for a dollar; I know many such men who appear to be well off and yet inwardly they are slaves to their position, status and income.  But I submit as well that a man can pick his battles, act strategically, get his money and keep his dignity.  In this case, I am such the man.

Perhaps one day I may let this person know that I have known for some time that he has not had my best interest at heart.  But for the foreseeable future – I can allow his ego to flounder while it falsely confirms itself as superior in my own financial interest.

Selah

Pictured is Paul Rusesabagina with me and my son Christian during a book signing visit in St. Louis